Feeding ecology and diet

Whistlers and their relatives are, for the most part, rather sedate feeders. They search foliage and limbs in a methodical fashion, gleaning prey from leaves or bark, and some pick items from the ground by pouncing. Because these species do not pursue flying insects, most lack rictal bristles of more aerial insectivorous birds. Most species feed in the top to middle of the canopy, but some like the rufous-naped whistler and olive whistler (Pachycephala olivacea) forage in low dense understory. The larger shrike-thrushes and, more frequently, the crested bellbird feed on the ground, hopping in a thrush-like manner. The ploughbill and shrike-tits use their strong bills to strip bark from branches, feeding on insects they expose.

The main prey are insects and other small invertebrates. The mangrove-inhabiting white-breasted whistler frequently eats small crabs and small mollusks. The larger species of shrike-thrushes opportunistically take eggs, baby birds, and small vertebrates. Many species include fruit, usually berries, in their diets. Some species of pitohuis include considerable amount of fruit, and the mottled whistler and yellow-flanked whistler are predominantly frugivorous.

A male golden whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) feeds chicks in the nest. (Photo by Eric Lindgren. Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Members of this family generally feed solitarily. But shrike-tits forage gregariously, several individuals maintaining a small group as they hunt for insects. Pitohuis commonly join mixed feeding parties with similarly colored species.

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